6 Tips for Your Graduation Day

Congratulations, you did it! You completed your degree, and you're graduating.

There are several milestone moments in your life and graduating definitely falls into that category. The day can be fairly hectic, but it doesn't have to be stressful. Here are six tips for making the most of your graduation day.

The day goes so quickly, and you don't want to feel rushed at any point. Start with your ceremony time and work from there, your university, college or high school should inform you of this time quite a bit in advance of the day. Often you can find this information on your school's website.

My ceremony was at 3pm, so it gave me a bit of time to play with. I couldn't pick up my gown or tickets until the day of. Those could be collected from 9am (check with your own school, if you can pick them up the day before I would recommend that). Be showered and ready with hair and makeup done before you collect your gown minus perhaps what you plan to wear under your gown.

Make as much of the day as you can, I went for breakfast after collecting my tickets and gown and it really added to the day. Having everything ready the evening before and laid out will really help make your day more seamless, that includes packing your bag with anything you intend to bring and charging cameras.

Make sure any guests you have coming know exactly where they need to be and by what time. If you have people coming you know are regularly late tell them an earlier arrival time to avoid you getting stressed out. You should know the best way to get to the venue and let them know a few days before to make everything a little easier.

Photographs and post-ceremony celebrations, these are covered in points five and six. I'll say it twice because it's so important, know what time your cap and gown need to be returned by because you can easily make photo arrangements around this.

Shoes - I'm going to start with shoes because you're going to have to walk across a stage in front of a lot of people. Wear something you can easily walk in on both carpet and hard flooring because if your venue is anything like mine, there could be multiple surfaces to walk across.

Don't be afraid to wear flat shoes for walking across the stage if you're uncomfortable in heels, you can always change into them for your photos later. I'd also recommend that you wear shoes you've worn at least once or twice before to make sure you can walk comfortably in them and not just strutting around your house practising. If you love heels and are a pro at walking about in them then go ahead because they'll look great, but maybe pack a pair to flats to keep up with your family for walking to photo spots.

Clothes - You want to feel your best, so get dressed up in something you love and feel amazing in. The last thing you want is to be pulling at your clothes because you're uncomfortable. I wore a dress, but jumpsuits or two pieces can look amazing, I would avoid anything with big sleeves because they won't sit well under your gown.

Boys have it relatively easy, a smart suit or a kilt (if you're in Scotland like me), something to consider is how warm you're going to be. You will feel roasting under your suit and gown if it's a nice day, so maybe save the waistcoat for after the ceremony. Both a tie and a bowtie will look smart with the gown.

Jewellery - keep it simple and classic, I wouldn't advise wearing any "statement" pieces for the ceremony, you can keep those for later. Nothing that's going to make a lot of noise.

NOTE - Most schools will have a dress code for graduation ceremonies, my school required either dark or white smart clothes to be worn under the gown. Obviously, you should follow those guidelines.

You usually only have 2 tickets per graduate (check with your school), and other guests can queue on the day and not always guaranteed a seat or entry. I'm sure your Gran and Grandpa would love to come, but can they stand for several hours? It's something to bear in mind. This also factors into how you plan your timeline, your extra guests will likely be able to queue from an hour before, maybe earlier and to guarantee a seat inside you want to be at the start of the line. That means while your ceremony may start at 3pm those guests should be prepared to wait from around 1:30pm to be seated for 2:30pm.

If you have a large family it's unlikely you'll be able to have them all there for the ceremony, I really wouldn't recommend having more than 4 extra guests (6 total) purely from seating limitations. You can invite those additional guests to meet you post-ceremony for photos and dinner.


You want as little with you as possible to carry, a small bag that you can tuck under your chair will be ok, and I'd highly recommend having a small bottle of water with you because it can be a long wait and there is a good chance you'll be warm.

Most importantly, just try and soak in as much as possible, events like these don't happen often in your life, and this is a huge achievement. Enjoy it and smile because there are people snapping photos left, right and centre.


Whether you decide to go the formal photography route or not have a few key images you want to capture on the day. If there is a particular spot on campus you want a photo at make sure you make it a priority and let those in your group know where you want them to go too. This really goes back to the planning for the day, have someone appointed with the camera and make sure they know what you were thinking. Take as many photos as possible, again, this day is a one-off it's always better to have too many photos than not enough.

Consider the time of year your graduation is, if you have a lot of daylight hours to play with it won't matter too much when you take your photos. However, if it's going to get dark quite early get some photos before your ceremony to avoid disappointment.

Last but not least, what to do post-ceremony. Know when your gown needs to be returned! It isn't always possible to keep it until the next day.

If your party is wanting to go for dinner after your ceremony book a table in advance (they book up really quickly) and ask the restaurant if they have any special graduation menus, often you'll get a free glass of champagne. Don't book it too close to the end of your ceremony as they often run late and you don't want to be in a rush and miss out on your photos. I'd allow yourself at least two hours post-ceremony if your venue is close by and longer if you need to travel.

That's six tips to help you make the most of your graduation day. Congratulations and enjoy!

Photos by Jonathan Bismark


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